A red hourglass on a black widow spider, which is known to deliver a painful bite. If you experience discomfort after the spider bites you, this is most likely the reason.

I’ve seen a lot of spider bites in my day, and more often than not, the spider is never discovered. I’ve amassed a number of methods for determining the spider responsible for the bite over time.

There are three types of poisonous spiders in the United States. The brown recluse spider is found throughout the southern two-thirds of the country. It loves to hide in boxes, so I often wonder whether it isn’t snatched on occasion by freight. The hobo spider prefers living in the western part of the country. Every state except Alaska has hosted a black widow female.

Here are some hints on how to tell if you’ve been bitten by a spider.

1. Evaluate the Pain

If you experience discomfort from the spider’s bite, it’s most likely a black widow. The bite of a black widow is usually unpleasant, although it is not always so. You may also get severe pains in your body and a fever.

Brown recluse spider bites are typically painless. You seldom notice anything. They lurk in or under boxes, beneath your bed covers, and in your clothing. The discomfort you feel several minutes to hours after the injury is the first sign that you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider.


Brown recluse spider bites two months later. This is the eschar, or black, leathery, dead tissue, that may form over the wound after a brown recluse spider bite. The photographer claims that it was surgically removed about a month after this photo was taken.

The bite of a hobo spider feels similar to that of a brown recluse, and the pain occurs minutes to hours later.

2. Look at the Skin Damage

The brown recluse spider’s venom causes a local response. The bite region becomes red, blistery, or blackened. The crimsonness begins small and spreads. In the middle of the redness, a black spot of dead tissue forms. This lifeless tissue can be little and superficial to deep and big—sometimes enough to necessitate a skin transplant when all is said and done. When the tissue dies, the afflicted area becomes extremely unpleasant.

The hobo spider is less likely to cause skin damage than the brown recluse.

The black widow spider’s sting causes a red spot that is sometimes difficult to detect. (More obvious: It can cause muscular aches and cramps for one to three weeks throughout the body.)

How to Treat a Spider Bite in Your Home or Garden

If you can, go to see a doctor. If you can’t, consider the following options.

If you’re unsure whether the spider was a brown recluse or a hobo, consult an expert.

  1. Keeping the afflicted area at or above the level of your heart might help slow down the spread of the venom.
  2. Prevent infection. As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) detaches, clean and cover the wound as you would any other, applying antibiotic ointment or honey. It can take weeks for a large wound to heal. If it appears to be infected, you’ll need to use oral antibiotics.
  3. Take care of the discomfort. Take an over-the-counter pain medication if necessary.

Some people believe that steroids might help reduce the severity of a brown recluse spider bite. When the injuries are too large to heal on their own, skin transplants may be necessary.

Take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the muscular cramps if you believe the spider was a black widow.

A black widow spider bite (particularly if you’re a male) can cause severe chest and abdominal pain that mimics appendicitis or a heart attack. It can make your blood pressure rise, which may require medication. You may notice an increased heart rate and a flushed face if you can’t get to see a doctor right away. If you can’t go to the doctor immediately, try resting to reduce the blood pressure. Antivenin may be used in severe cases when necessary.

The good news is that spider bites are quite uncommon in the United States.

Have you ever been bitten by a brown recluse, hobo, or black widow? How did you figure out what kind of spider it was? What were the symptoms? Was it treated in any way? What are your current circumstances?

Photo by Mathew Schwartz/Unsplash

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